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Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The Euroleague Final Eight

In terms of the calibre of non-international competitive basketball, the Euroleague is second in the world only to the NBA. That is to say, of all the leagues in the world not to excessively overuse snippets of Busta Rhymes songs, or turn nightly to the tortured genius of Kiss Cam, the Euroleague is the best. If you love basketball, you'll love watching the Euroleague. If you love basketball and yet have never watched the Euroleague, you haven't tried hard enough.

The first two group stages have been complete, and now the eight strongest teams enter a playoff-style format or head-to-head series. Ergo, continuing a series of posts that take fleeting glances at every worthwhile current player in the world today - the loose theme of which is 'Why spend all that time watching it all just to never write about any of it?' - there follows a look at the compelling protagonists of the final eight teams in this Euroleague season. Teams list in no order other than alphabetical.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The 2010/11 NCAA Tournament, Part 3: Southeastern Region

There is no better event in the American sports calendar than the NCAA Tournament. None. Zilch. Zero. And it's not even especially close.

All the games running concurrently, and the one game knockout format, make for captivating evenings of hours and hours of entertainment. This is particularly true of the first round, where action jumps from game to game, and Greg Gumbel struggles to keep up with all the information he's getting in his ear. It's like the FA Cup, except it's better.

Much, much better.

And I like the FA Cup.

Since this post is long enough already, the intro ends here, and there follows a preview (often in the form of a recap) of all 68 of the teams taking part in this, the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In this post: the 17 teams in the Southeast region. Use the following links to skip to relevant parts.

Arkansas-Little Rock - Belmont - Butler - BYU - Florida - Gonzaga - Kansas State - Michigan State - Old Dominion - Pittsburgh - St. John's - UCLA - UC Santa Barbara - UNC Asheville - Utah State - Wisconsin - Wofford

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The 2010/11 NCAA Tournament, Part 2: Eastern Region

There is no better event in the American sports calendar than the NCAA Tournament. None. Zilch. Zero. And it's not even especially close.

All the games running concurrently, and the one game knockout format, make for captivating evenings of hours and hours of entertainment. This is particularly true of the first round, where action jumps from game to game, and Greg Gumbel struggles to keep up with all the information he's getting in his ear. It's like the FA Cup, except it's better.

Much, much better.

And I like the FA Cup.

Since this post is long enough already, the intro ends here, and there follows a preview (often in the form of a recap) of all 68 of the teams taking part in this, the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In this post: the 18 teams in the Eastern region. Use the following links to skip to relevant parts.

Alabama State - Clemson - George Mason - Georgia - Indiana State - Kentucky - Long Island - Marquette - North Carolina - Ohio State - Princeton - Syracuse - Texas-San Antonio - UAB - Villanova - Washington - West Virginia - Xavier

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The 2010/11 NCAA Tournament, Part 1: Southwestern Region

There is no better event in the American sports calendar than the NCAA Tournament. None. Zilch. Zero. And it's not even especially close.

All the games running concurrently, and the one game knockout format, make for captivating evenings of hours and hours of entertainment. This is particularly true of the first round, where action jumps from game to game, and Greg Gumbel struggles to keep up with all the information he's getting in his ear. It's like the FA Cup, except it's better.

Much, much better.

And I like the FA Cup.

Since this post is long enough already, the intro ends here, and there follows a preview (often in the form of a recap) of all 68 of the teams taking part in this, the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In this post: the 17 teams in the Southwest region. Use the following links to skip to relevant parts.

Akron - Boston University - Florida State - Georgetown - Illinois - Louisville - Kansas - Morehead State - Notre Dame - Purdue - Richmond - St Peter's - Texas A&M - UNLV - USC - Vanderbilt - VCU

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chinese Basketball Association Imports, 2010/11, Again

Yi Jianlian, Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi. Not in picture: Sun Yue. Also not in picture: Benjamin Disraeli.

The Chinese Basketball Association and its compelling protagonists have a particular level of focus on this website, for reasons which, if you don't already know them, are about to become extremely obvious.

Fringe NBA players like playing in China; the exposure isn't huge and the standard isn't great, but the CBA pays very well, and it is unashamed in copying the NBA model of basketball not much imitated around the globe. They've changed their style to match up to the NBA game; games are 48 minutes long (like the NBA, and unlike basically every other league in the world), and there's about three of them a week (unlike most other domestic leagues, which have 1). This teams playing lots of games with less emphasis on practice is a lure to players; after all, as that great philosopher of our time Nate Dogg once said, "playas play on, play on, keep playing on." Words to live by.

(As an aside, did you know Nate Dogg has been hospitalised for the best part of three years after a series of strokes? Me neither.)

Each CBA team is allowed to have two import players at any one time, and these players are almost always American. Better still, these players are also almost always players that you've heard of, with a great deal of ex-NBA pedigree on there. Perhaps it is now obvious why the league is attractive.

There follows a selection of Chinese Basketball Association statistics. All statistics and standings taken from March 12th, 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Jersey......Toronto.......London.


Antiphon

With apologies to their combined 34-87 record, the Toronto Raptors and the New Jersey Nets had not played an interesting game all season heading into last weekend. It was known in advance that the two teams would struggle this season, and any optimism to the contrary has been roundly denounced. Both teams are building for the future, and rightly so. But it comes at the expense of the present.

Right now, they suck.

At this point in any season, there are many meaningless doldrums games. With the trade deadline passed, almost all player movement cemented, and the title contenders obvious, most teams now know who they are. Many of the games in March and April are frankly rather boring - if the teams concerned are not putting forth their best effort to win, you're invariably going to reciprocate with a half arsed level of interest. In light of everything that has transpired this season, the Raptors and Nets can both equate to this.

However, these particular doldrums games had a resonance and magnitude not afforded to their counterparts. These games were played in London, England, at the O2 Arena. And that single caveat brought a hitherto unprecedented level of excitement to what would otherwise be two of the most arbitrary games of the season.

(The ambitious accompanying television ad campaign pitched this games as "crucial games leading up to the NBA playoffs," bringing "all the fun and excitement of the NBA." It was a slightly generous pitch, but as we'll see later, not entirely fictional. Apart from the bit about "crucial".)

If nothing else, half of it was faintly true. Entertaining if not especially high standard of game could have happened; after all, the half-game difference between their respective records showed the two teams to be evenly matched. Furthermore, the arrival of Deron Williams brought some star recognition to a game that badly needed it. And when the NBA's tenth worst defense met its second worst, offense was sure to follow.

More importantly, this is the first NBA game that mattered, however faintly, in the history of Europe. This game presented an opportunity for people from Europe to go to their first ever NBA game. And as a person from Europe, that's exactly what I did.

Twice.

(Just.)

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"The brain behind ShamSports could have been featured in a number of these Twitter lists, but because his website often spends our entire working day lodged in one of our browser tabs we decided to take the boring route and place Mark amongst the professors. Deeks might be the funniest man you've never met, he does exhaustive work with the NBA's salary minutiae and transaction follow-ups, and he's a stone-cold must-follow. Stone-cold fox, too, ladies. Or, some gentlemen."